Story of Japan - R. Van Bergen

The Story of "Young Ox"

When the young lord of the clan heard of the events that had taken place in the capital, he left the peninsula and marched upon Kamakura. Here he found Young Ox with the center of his army, and ordered him to go at once to Kyoto to punish their treacherous cousin. The latter was informed by spies of the approach of this army, and he led his victorious troops to a little village south of Kyoto on the Yodo (yoh-doh)  River, and there awaited the attack. He had not long to wait. His troops, recognizing the wrong of their leader's cause, fought in a half-hearted way, and he was defeated. While he was trying to effect his escape, his horse floundered in the mud of a rice field, and he was shot in the forehead with an arrow.

Young Ox now turned his attention to the Taira, who had escaped from the capital. The young lord of that clan had taken refuge in a castle near Kobe (koh-bay), but Young Ox took it by assault, and it was with difficulty that Taira escaped and hurried to another castle of his clan, which was also taken. The fugitive, accompanied by the empress and the boy emperor, now decided upon seeking a shelter in the island of Kiushiu. With the remnant of his clan he embarked in as many ships as he could collect, and set sail.

Army on the March


But Young Ox was not to be balked of his prey. He incited his followers to the greatest efforts, and in a short time succeeded in assembling enough vessels to embark his army and set off in pursuit. In the straits at the west entrance to the Inland Sea, the fugitives were overtaken. A naval battle was fought in which the troops of Taira fought with the courage of despair, but to no avail. Young Ox remained victor. A few of the clan who effected their escape sought refuge in the mountain fastnesses of the island of Kiushiu. The empress, unwilling to surrender, jumped into the sea with the, boy emperor, and both were drowned.

After defeating the enemies of his half-brother, Young Ox returned to Kamakura. You would naturally suppose that the young lord would welcome the hero who had rendered him and his clan such important services; but not so. It may be that Yoritomo was afraid that his half-brother might have ambitious plans, such as his cousin had; or perhaps he was jealous of the glory and fame gained by Young Ox. At any rate, when the victorious army approached Kamakura, the head of the clan sent a messenger to Young Ox with the order to encamp beyond the city walls, and there to deliver up the trophies and spoils. Young Ox obeyed without a murmur, and, receiving an order to that effect, withdrew with his army to Kyoto.

He was but a short time in the capital when his command was taken from him, and he noticed that he could not leave the house without being followed by spies. He began to fear that he would be poisoned or stabbed if he remained in Kyoto, so he moved to a small country place, taking care not to arouse suspicion. He lived by himself and saw no one, but he was still watched by spies. At last he decided to return to the north of Japan to the place where he had first plotted against Taira, which he had left only to help his brother. Here he would not be suspected, and he was satisfied to withdraw from public life, since he had avenged the wrongs of his clan. So Young Ox left for the north without meeting with any adventures, and arrived at his old refuge. But the old governor was dead, and his place was held by his son, who, to court favor with the new regent, had the young hero assassinated.

If the cowardly murderer had expected a reward, he was much disappointed, for he was tried and executed by order of Minamoto. But this did not prevent tongues from wagging; and it was rumored that the new regent was not entirely innocent of his brother's murder.

Buddhist ceremony


Yoritomo was now regent. He had entered Kyoto in triumph, and had received the title and rank from the baby emperor whom his cousin had placed on the throne. The regent, however, declined to reside in the capital. He left a trusty officer to watch over the emperor; that is, to prevent any other clan from obtaining control over his person. After he had secured a deed by which the title and power of regent should remain in his family, Yoritomo set about restoring order, the country having been much disturbed by the civil war.

Buddhist cloisters and convents had greatly multiplied, and the monks did not like to see the emperor a mere puppet in the hands of a great clan. So they made as much difficulty for the regent as they could. But after Yoritomo had burned a few of their cloisters, the monks saw that he was too strong for them, and they submitted to his laws.

After Yoritomo had punished robbers, and made the roads safe for travelers and merchants, he began to encourage the arts and industries. It was during his reign that the Dai Butsu, the great bronze statue of Buddha, was cast. The Japanese became wonderfully skillful in metal working. They were especially famous for the temper of the swords they made.